Book Review: Love in The Time of Cholera

 

I finished this novel a few weeks ago. It is now one of a handful of books that has pulled an emotional response out of me so strong as to elicit tears. This is not because of the realism in the book. Marquez uses a some magical realism in this story. I would say the story is not particularly realistic. The characters are lifelike but interact in a strange way occasionally. I was captivated by the deep detail with which the author paints the stories of so many deep emotional connections between the characters. 

I'd say 9/10, you should read this novel with context on the setting and author's background

Spoilers below

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The beginning of the story is simple. Juvenal and Fermina are an old married couple. He is a well respected doctor in town. They have a nice life together and their relationship has a number of humorous notes here and there. Suddenly, Juvenal dies and an old man appears at the door to try and win Fermina's love (a shaken new widow). Things get complicated fast and the setting of the story jumps back decades to the past.

Fermina and Florentino are two young adults in town. Fermina is the daughter of a businessman and Florentino is working at a telegraph station. I don't particularly like Florentino or Fermina, the two main characters of this novel. They are stubborn people. They have a whole cadre of issues linked to mental health that stems from traumatic situations they encountered in their respective youth. I pity these two characters. I don't find myself rooting for them in any particular way. However, the depth of their emotion and the extent to which they are able to share their mind with others is something that I occasionally envied while reading. In the beginning, the fledgling romance between Florentino and Fermina is cute and simple. Both are interested and take fairly parochial stances in the way the relationship would progress. But alas, after the turning point of Fermina's father interjecting in their courtship we learn more about how younger Fermina thinks about an ideal romantic partner. The story gets more complicated

As these two individuals move through life, they don't resolve many of the problems they forged in their teenage and young adult years. After Juvenal's death, things get messy. The emotions once bottled up for so many years are now made center stage. It can be easy at this point to feel bad for Florentino or Fermina; however, I still couldn't muster that feeling. Yet, I still want to urge them forward to seek out something they can both agree on. They both love life to some extent and both fear death to some extent. In the end, they find some ability to forgive both themselves and each other. They feel strange about embracing feelings they have held hidden for so many years and appear resolved to live out the short remainder of their lives in a bliss state laden with a deep sadness. A sadness that they have wasted so much of their lives to unnecessary and unhappy relationships. Yet profoundly happy that they were able to make something right in the end.


Getting a handle on LTspice

 


One of my skills as an engineer is having a modicum of knowledge about circuitry although I do not have an electrical engineering degree. A number of my personal projects have involved electronic systems and I have relied heavily on my study of examples on the internet to complete these electronic projects. One tool I have learned how to use is KiCAD to develop circuit boards and have them manufactured by 'board houses' in and out of the US. As I develop more interesting circuitry both in my employed life and my personal projects, I have realized that a greater knowledge of electronics simulation software would be handy. Therefore, I have dived into LTspice. "spice" is a widely used, free software package that simulates electronic relationships and can evaluate the governing equations of various circuitry components connected together. LTspice is a free software using spice created by the engineers at Linear Technologies (ergo the LT in LTspice).

I have been playing around a bit on a transformer circuit and trying to wrap my head around the various commands and control shortcuts of this software. I wonder what I will use this on next?



Microwaving People is Verboten


It's probably a war crime, I would think so. There are reports from different places in the world that 'directed energy' attacks have been made on border guards and spy agents. Directed energy refers to a collimated beam of electromagnetic energy tuned to frequencies which hurt, incapacitate, or potentially even kill the targets. A number of frequencies which land in the wavelength range of microwaves are good for heating up water and thus organic matter. While microwave transmitters have been around for a long time, new advances in electronics and battery energy storage have made such devices strong enough to be used outside of the steel box in one's kitchen and instead on the battlefield. The effects of exposure to microwave directed energy is not well researched and particularly hard to study given that intentional attacks are not something any ethics committee would allow; let alone find volunteers for.

My New Used Car

 


The largest purchase I have ever made BY FAR. Today I went ahead with buying a Toyota Rav4. I have been looking at cars since last June when I took a job with Physical Sciences, Inc. When I took that job I realized that I needed to have a car to commute, so I called up my mom who was willing to let me borrow her Jeep for the last five months. Thanks mom. I did a test drive last Tuesday and I was pleasantly surprised with how nice I found the vehicle. I compared to the CR-V and the Forester and liked the Rav4 more. It is one of the most popular SUV models for the class.

I dropped $21k. The money I used to pay for this car was built up over the last four years of my on-campus jobs, internships, and other jobs. I went with GEICO for the insurance. I did not know it stood for something. It stands for Government Employee Insurance COmpany. Who knew? Probably GEICO employees I hope.

The only thing connecting me to my parents now is my phone plan, which is sort of intimidating. I am nearly a fully blown adult on my own. There is no reason to go onto separate phone plans though. Since it's a deal.

Love in the Time of COVID



I'm sure so many people have already used the word play on writer Marquez's book titled "Love in the Time of Cholera". My own love in the time of corona is someone I have been with for the last two years. My girlfriend Ally and I drove to rural mid-Michigan and back to meet my mom and dad this past week. On the way out from Boston, we stopped at a hotel briefly near Niagara Falls to sightsee. The photos of this brief, cautious excursion can be found at "https://photos.app.goo.gl/Gbs7wSKfbJRdESc77". I was astounded at the brash, coughing families I spotted from a distance while witnessing the majestic beauty of over 100,000 gallons per second of water spill over a rocky edge. Ally and I were able to get a few different views of each of the discrete waterfalls. When you are standing there next to the rushing water, it's almost too massive to comprehend. I am encouraged to seek out other such natural world wonders after seeing the famous falls. Maybe I can get Ally to join me for another such adventure? She's watching over my shoulder right now as I write, so I should probably just ask and be forthcoming. :)

Ganzfeld Bath Time


Since I can't go out anywhere, I have found myself sitting by my lonesome on Friday nights scrolling the web. I was scrolling Wikipedia when I came across and article discussing false perceptions. These false perceptions are the result of the human brain 'coming up with stuff' that really is not there. This manifests as hallucinations. Sometimes this can happen when someone is really tired or stressed. At other times, hallucinations can arise when an abnormal preceptory stimulus is applied to one's senses. In the case of a Ganzfeld experiment, named after an German word for 'complete field', hallucinations can arise when a uniform stimulus is applied to any individual sense or all senses at once. This uniform stimulus can be white noise played over headphones, looking at a field of evenly intense light, or laying in a bath of warm water. In each case, hearing, sight, and feeling are equally stimulated. As time goes on, the body 'gets used to' this stimulus. And if time continues on, the brain no longer 'sees' new stimulus to react towards. 

After reading this Wikipedia article, I did not expect the effect to be that strong and I wanted to try it out for myself. I covered my eyes with a cloth and set up a red LED lamp to shine on my face. I wore my over-ear headphones and listened to white noise at a comfortable volume. After about 20 minutes of laying in the warm tub, I precepted slight rumbling sounds within the white noise which I'm sure weren't really there. I would say it was sort of like meditation or daydreaming. Generally underwhelming but seems to be sort of a real thing? The whole ESP thing with respect to Ganzfeld experiments is a load of baloney though. That's pseudoscience. It is popular for pseudoscience folks to engage with some element of real science to peddle their stick. Maybe COVID will make pseudoscience more lucrative? If it hasn't already :/ 

Shop Homes, Cottage Living, or maybe Post-Commerce Residential

I am trying to predict a trend in how America's commercial real estate will end up being used in the mid 21st century. As it stands now, the United States has way too much commercial real estate. A lot of malls are empty and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the plague, malls and commercial real estate in general was having a hard time. Consumers in the USA are flocking to Amazon and e-commerce at large in droves. In a few years, Main Street USA will look even more different than it does now; after the great recession. Despite these changes, the large brick buildings and steel garages will still be standing even without shopping floors to occupy them. The same bond market collapse that we saw in 2008 connected to residential units in the sun belt will happen similarly to commercial units across the country. There is a silver lining to this economic issue. These buildings can be repurposed. As housing prices increase across the country (rent or buy), an additional source of housing supply can be added in the form of repurposed commercial units turned into residential units. Sometimes this is easier purposed than actually acted on, as zoning is a thing. However, many cities with strict zoning laws also suffer from housing issues. I could imagine some progressive movements in the US which strive to increase housing equity might support changes in zoning policy and land usage legislation which encourage commercial land owners which are holding unused properties to repurpose them for housing. 

Some problems I could anticipate relate to the building code differences. In residential units, the number of bathrooms and the amount of natural lighting needed is much higher than that of commercial units. This would involve intensive work to change and (often) retrofit existing utilities and structures to meet residential building codes.

What will these old stores turned condos be called? I don't know. Maybe shop homes because they were once stores. Or maybe something fancy like post-commerce residential. Let's wait and find out.

Book Review: Love in The Time of Cholera

  I finished this novel a few weeks ago. It is now one of a handful of books that has pulled an emotional response out of me so strong as to...